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Parks and Recreation: the evolution of sitcoms and humor

February 23, 2013

Parks and Recreation: A View at the Modern Day Sitcom

And the Magnitude of Television Humor


            Parks and Recreation is a mockumentary like sitcom that’s in its fifth season on NBC. Staring Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope, she leads the show as the enthusiastic and passionate bureaucrat who works in the parks department in the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana. Knope and the rest of her team work hard to preserve the natural aspects of the town. Things mostly turn out for the best for the Parks Department, and the many different characters often show that hard work does pay off, despite the poor conditions and mindsets of the people surrounding them.

This season, a new character arises as enemy to the parks department. Councilman Jamm (Jon Glaser), a perfect symbol of selfish and corrupt government, plays dirty and does whatever he can to get his way. Unfortunately for Knope, Councilman Jamm’s eyes are focused on building a Paunch Burger in the same lot that is destined to be a city park. In the battle over who gets it, Knope and her team decide to host a black tie gala in order to raise money for the park. But just in the midst of setting things up, the Disaster Preparedness Department drags Knope away to test Pawnee’s readiness in case of a disaster. With Knope’s absence the team is tested on whether or not they can get it together in time for the big night.

In a separate plot, Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt) is testing into the Pawnee Police Department. Despite his quirky doofness, Dwyer proves to be in his own way very bright, receiving 100% on the written exam. While his wife April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza) nervously waits for him, Dwyer moves on to the personality portion of the exam. Unfortunately, things don’t seem to be going as well for him as they did in the first portion of the test.  As things start to come together for the gala, the red meat eating manly man Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) offers to take Knope’s place on Pawnee Today. As he advertises the gala as one of Pawnee’s big events, he also offers advice to the town’s dimwits who call in strange requests and questions.

While the rest of the team preps for the Gala, Knope is stuck pretending to fight off the Avian Flu alongside her best friend Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones), overly positive Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe) and Councilman Jamm. Knope soon learns that the extensive Disaster Preparedness drill was requested in by Councilman Jamm, in hope to delay the gala and its goal of raising $50,000.00 for the park. Despite Pawnee failing the drill, Knope is surprised to find that even with her absence, her team managed to do everything just in time. Congratulating her team and her sweet heart Benn Wyatt (Adam Scott), a romantic twist ends the episode as Knope and Wyatt dabble in the idea of getting married right then and there. Just as the two look ready to go for it, the episode halts the excitement with a To Be Continued.

To get some perspective on the history of sitcoms, I watched an episode of The Honeymooners and an episode of the original I Love Lucy show and analyzed both the content and purpose behind these shows. This episode of Parks and Recreations, like many others, highlights the wholehearted optimism that seems to be a continuing theme throughout each season. Very much like early sitcoms such as I Love Lucy and The Honeymooners, Parks and Recreations ends each episode with a positive message that relates to human relationships and common every day morals. Sitcom episodes of the mid 20th century jab at the issues that portray the faults of the human condition and in a way, sugar coat the problems that we all deal with – work competition, love, and the struggle behind power. Although the content has changed and adapted over time, the drive behind each episode remains the same in that it continues to outline the ways of social structure, depicting the way things should be.

            Parks and Recreations is definitely a show to bring a smile to your face. Although the humor may not cause you to laugh out loud, it’s the type of comedy that makes you feel good. The dialogue and body language of each character, big or small, is witty, clever, and well thought out. It’s the same humor you would find in casual conversations amongst your friends – the kind that makes you want to have a good day. Despite the problems that the characters face, for example in this episodes Disaster Preparedness obstacle, the problems are real life problems that with work, can be overcome. It allows for everyone watching to relate, and in a way, feel motivated to overcome his or her own obstacles.

There are many different shows on television these days, and many of them are supposed to be funny. That being said however, not that many end up following through with the act of making you laugh or even smile. What makes people laugh? Watching this show I came to the conclusion that many different things make people laugh. For some, the mere facial expression on Ron Swanson or Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari) face make people laugh uncontrollably. For others, the overdramatic reactions or interpretations of dealing with every day problems bring upon a slight chuckle.

Parks and Recreations is a great show. From the plot, to the characters, to the comforting scene’s in the towns city hall, this show makes you feel good, bringing you back to watch the new episodes every week.


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